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Friday, March 24, 2017

Communicate, communicate, communicate

The top 5 reasons leaders don't communicate by Sherry Scott
On the Experience Optimism website, I have commented about the communication tactics of Optimist International many times. I fully believe that it could communicate more effectively with the members of the Optimist Clubs that make up the organization.

Specifically, it has a habit of sharing some information only with district leaders in the hopes that the information will trickle down as needed. Once someone is no longer in a leadership position, the information pipeline stops. The disappointment with this model is twofold:
  • the information does not trickle down in an effective manner
  • when it does trickle down, most information is prescriptive and does not engage members in the decision-making process
Plus, with the annually-imposed stop and start date of September 30 and October 1, it is as if one day you're in, and the next day you're out. Or is it? I've come to realize that perhaps, sometimes, one is never in the communication loop at all.

Some may have noticed that this administrative year has been especially non-communicative. It seems that very little information has trickled down to our clubs because as a club president, I have yet to see a district bulletin or even an email message from the governor. Almost six months have passed and while I know to go to the district website for information and meeting registration, I'm especially disillusioned to see that there is nothing listed, as of this writing, for the 3rd and 4th quarter district meetings, no minutes from the first quarter meeting, no financial reports, and no district goals or expections, among other things.

Districts have two purposes in Optimist International: to help Optimist Clubs succeed and to help Optimist International grow. Optimist International President Jim Kondrasuk has bundled the two purposes together this year by declaring it to be the Year of the Honor Club. When an Optimist Club earns Honor Club recognition, it has availed itself of the services from Optimist International and its District to host effective programs and recruit and retain members. Without communication, we don't know the specifics of the programs for the year including how to involve our youth contestants in the International Scholarship programs. Or, for instance, do you realize that Optimist International is awarding $500 each quarter for membership recruitment? 

Communication is crucial to success. Moreover, communication is a key that brings satisfaction to our decisions, including the decision to be part of an Optimist Club. In an article written for the Institute of Public Relations, Sherry Scott identified the top 5 reasons that leaders don't communicate as:

  1. The business strategy is complex
  2. They are uncomfortable with messiness
  3. Someone might ask a question they don't know the answer to
  4. They view their "goal" as communicator as delivering information, not hosting a conversation
  5. They don't want to deliver bad news

If I relate these to Optimist International, and more specifically to the governors of each of its 49 districts, I offer the following line item rebuttal:

  1. Honor Club is the business strategy 
  2. The business strategy, Honor Club, is about as straightforward as it gets
  3. Don't know the answer? I'll find out and get back to you is an answer
  4. Any information would be helpful and we can work on the rest if one is open to the ideas that others may have
  5. We can't fix the problems or celebrate the successes if we don't know about them

This year marks 30 years that I have been a member of an Optimist Club and over the years I have watched club presidents, district leaders, and international leaders approach their roles with various styles. The most successful are the ones who communicate their goals, restate their goals, work toward their goals at every turn, and monitor progress, reviewing it with others all along the way.

Some do that by creating, following and reporting on a published strategic plan. Although some might want to do more during their leadership term, I suggest that Honor Club is the baseline. Once a leader starts communicating that, the rest of the story to be communicated will fall into place.

Need help developing a communications plan? Contact Linda Vaughtpublic relations communicator at Experience Optimism.

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